Fresno Unified working to ensure all students have devices for distance learning

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Sophomores at McLane High School could hardly carry the handful of books they picked up Monday in person.

The heavy load will be part of what they need to start the school year as distance learners.

The back to school vibe was different since only one-fourth of the student body briefly appeared on campus to get necessities.

"Normally, the campus is buzzing; we got kids everywhere, athletes everywhere, clubs are happening, teachers are here," says McLane High Principal Brian Wulf. "And it's hard right now because it's a ghost town and because many of the interactions are different. "We're telling kids, 'Hey, space out, where's your mask and make sure they stay safe.'"

For Fresno Unified, Monday and Tuesday are orientation days and instruction begins Wednesday.

The district's top leader says the biggest hurdle has been getting digital devices into the hands of every student who needs them.

"We've put out literally 9,000 to 10,000 devices over the last few days, shipping them all via FedEx," says Fresno Unified Superintendent Bob Nelson. "We're now the Amazon Prime of the educational sect and getting as much material into the hands of kids as we can."

The district dealt with some glitches Monday when a surge of students logged into the system. About 1,200 calls came into the technology services line in just the first two hours.

The high traffic volume forced the district to quickly increase the capacity of its web servers.

District officials expect the first few weeks will be improving and troubleshooting any technical issues. The superintendent says both patience and determination will be necessary to navigate the new learning model.

"You never learn to surf by standing on the beach," Nelson said. "You got to get out in the water. You are going to miss some really good swells, you're going to fall off the board eight or 10 times, you're going to get banged up on the reef. But you don't learn to surf by standing on the beach."

Some students said what they will miss most about the new format is the in-person socialization with classmates.

The desks are deserted in Ms. Leyva's English class, but the familiar backdrop will be exactly what students will see when they log in for class.

Since hallways are empty and classes are online, it's hard to measure how successful back to school was and who is showing up.

Fresno Unified officials expect to have attendance numbers by the end of the week.
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